Planning meaningful exhibitions – The first step

Posted by
Barry Siskind
UFI’s Community Manager

I was at my neighbourhood Starbucks and my attention was drawn to a sign posted on the wall. It was Starbuck’s mission statement which read, “Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.” Having articulated this lofty statement Starbucks can then go about planning all its activities that affect customers, suppliers and shareholders.

That got me thinking about our industry. What is your first step when you plan an exhibition? For many of us it’s simply finding the file with the previous year’s plans and working from there.

An interesting post by Blogger Steve Binley to Exhibition News asks planners whether they ever stop and ask, “Why are we doing this?”

If I ask an organizer what their mission is, they might reply by saying, “To create a profitable event,” or “To bring buyers and sellers together.” While both statements are true they were probably just as true last year and the year before. The mission might not change but every industry does.

In the 1970’s, Management Guru Peter Drucker coined the phrase, “Basic strategy objectives.” These addressed the question, “What is our real purpose.” In the 70’s it made perfect sense for a corporation to look internally to answer this question but much has changed in the past four and a half decades. Successful companies now look outwards to include their stakeholders in the planning. This provides a mission for a business, exhibition or event that is all inclusive and meets the changing needs of the industries it proposes to serve.

Now when you talk to managers and ask the question, what is your purpose, they might say, to create an event that will focus on how our industry will integrate the onslaught of new technologies or to create an event whose purpose is to generate new ideas. When organizers look beyond their office doors and understand the real purpose of their exhibition, the planning process now gives their stakeholders a reason to support it.

An event or exhibition whose sense of purpose has been defined in this way now has clear clues to developing content, special features, and can even affect the physical layout.

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